Why Hiroshima?

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The plight of the “hibakusha” in Japan and elsewhere was so eloquently outlined by Matryn McLaughlin (Perspective, 4 August) it would be easy to think it was the only dilemma faced by that nation at the 70th anniversary of the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima. It may well be a country that needs to do more to help those who are still indescribably scarred by after effects of radiation and other problems. It is a country whose government and administrators are still in denial about what prompted the atomic attack in 1945 in the first place. 

When I visited the museum at the Peace Memorial Park in the city earlier this year I picked up a leaflet about the bombing. It claimed Hiroshima was chosen by the US for the attack because it did not have a prisoner-of-war camp. Of course, historians will be divided on the details of politics and military strategy in the Second World War conflict with Japan. Some say the attack was necessary because of the intransigence of Emperor Hirohito and his military establishment; others will say it was not necessary because a surrender to General McArthur and his US forces was not far away.

But the leaflet appeared to me to be a symptom of a nation still in denial about some of its own wartime atrocities. Some of these have been vividly depicted in Eric Lomax’s book The Railway Man. They describe brutal wrongs that still need a lot of explanation. The anniversary of Hiroshima will prompt, rightly, a close examination of the efficacy of nuclear weapons. It should remind us, too, not just of the sufferings of the the hibakusha but the damage to those who were the victims of Japanese military excesses.

Bob Taylor

Shiel Court